Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. III, Issue 2

Many thanks to Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke for guest editing three whole weeks of Snake-Oil goodies. Here’s what you  missed this week:


Monday – Fiction

Wednesday – Poetry

Friday – Poetry


We’re back to our regularly scheduled programming as of Monday.

A Longing In Everything

B.T. Joythere is a longing

in everything

a longing in the stones

and a longing in the trees


within the apple’s sweetened pith:

there is a brownish clove of apple-seed

that, undisturbedly, sleeps

with its murmur of branches hissing

in the breezes of centuries to come

and we discern

early-morning hunger in this line of crows;

in the shuffle of wings; the hop and stagger

of talons on the cold station walls

driving in today

and round bales of hay had been spread

out beneath the roundness of the frost moon

a dark hawk circuited in the deadly white

of sea-harr drifting up from shore

and I thought I saw

pagodas soar in the crimson rent of daybreak:

their blue and purple roof-tiles curling

like aching fingers on the sky’s flushed palm

still the wings are whirling

and without a call the birds of prey

swoop and dive determinedly

through siftings of celestial light

moonlight and sunlight

light flush on water and crisp on hay

and all this without saying

what secret engine makes

each mechanism run

what makes the shadows

of blackbirds fleet

from the garret’s darkness?

what makes the crane

explore the water’s brink?

and I think if only

one thing from nature spoke

I would understand at once

what longs

and what can satisfy

what seeker’s hand reaches

for the moon; or for the sun

what light it is that cools;

and what light burns

like trees

that cover travellers

in a cloak of tender shade

like stones

that sing through the open air

in a crackle of ecstatic prayer

* * * * *

B.T. Joy is a Glaswegian poet currently living in Bridge of Weir; where he teaches High School English. He received a First Class Honours degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies in 2009 at London Metropolitan University and has, since then, had poetry published in Australian, Irish, American, British, Japanese and Hongkongese journals. He is also the author of two volumes of haiku In The Arms Of The Wind and The Reeds That Tilt The Sky, published in 2010 and 2011 respectively. His haiga have appeared with the World Haiku Association, Haiga Online and Daily Haiga. In 2012 he was awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Education by the University of Strathclyde as part of the last cohort to undergo teacher education at Jordanhill College.

Guest edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Spirit Boats

Anna JacobsonLong grass whispers 
around her ankles as she walks
towards the lake. Fish flick-knife

inky water. In her hands she clasps
a folded paper boat. She lights
a tea candle and the flame dances.
She casts her boat into the water
and the boat glides as though a spirit.

On the other side a boy launches
his boat across the water. The vessels touch
midway as though kissing. She waits
for a message, watches as the candle tips,
sets the boat alight. Fire is suspended
on the surface. The flame is eaten
by water and the only lights reflected
are stars. The scent of longing and ash
heavy in the air.

Spirit Boats

My poem ‘Spirit Boats’ resonates with my photograph ‘Journey in a Paua Shell Boat’ from my FantasyScape series. Cast adrift on an inky lake, both poem and photograph are inspired by fantasy and storytelling, using the minimalism of the theatrical darkened stage. Through these landscapes, the viewer can explore and lose themselves in meditative worlds. As there are layers of meaning in the poem, layers of imagery of separate elements are also built into the photograph. The long exposure was lit by torchlight, to construct the environment.

* * * * *

Anna Jacobson is a Brisbane based poet and photographic artist. She graduated from the Queensland College of Art with a Bachelor of Photography with Honours. She loves creating soundscapes with poetry and video art and in 2009 she won the Queensland Poetry Festival Filmmaker Award, which was screened at the Judith Wright Centre. She is currently studying Creative and Professional Writing at the Queensland University of Technology. Her poetry was published online at Graham Nunn’s blog ‘Another Lost Shark’. Anna’s artist website is www.annajacobson.com.au.

This is her first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Guest edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Cindy Anne

Jenny BraswellThis is not my life. This is not my home. I am not really here. In my heart, I am far away, across the plains.

The white woman with blue eyes runs into the clearing among the pines. Her blue checkered dress dulls her brown hair. Her neat blue bow fights against the ecstatic expression of her face. Her desperate flight from the cabin winds her slightly, but her stamina is still nearly as good as it had been and much better than that of the people she flees.

Here, I cannot see the sky. Just small patches of blue that only hint at the majesty of the Sky Father. I am trapped, confined, burdened until I feel like I will die. I will die here.  Miserable.  Alone.

She finds a soft spot in the dirt of the clearing and crouches down to gather twigs. Her breath slows to the soothing of the wind as she snuggles cross-legged into the leaves, heedless of dirt and damp, and begins to make a fire.

I began here, or in a place very like this. A fort, manned by farmers, all family…all blood.

A small girl creeps to the edge of the clearing and watches as the woman begins her ritual. The woman chants a Comanche medicine chant, nearly wailing as she undulates, eyes closed, head tilted towards heaven.

And one day the Comanches came. They swept out of nowhere. My uncle assured us that they only wanted to trade. He spoke to them, and then they killed him. They killed almost all of us. But a few they spared….a few they took with them. I was one. They kidnapped me, and they made me freer than I ever would have been, and freer than I will ever be again.

The girl has heard the stories many times, in the language she shares with the woman in the clearing. Never in English, or they will be overheard. The images crowd her mind in her sleep – flashes of violence, of blood, of babies torn from the fleeing mothers, of scalps, or swirling horses. Of Cindy Anne, swept up by a warrior along with her brother, and carried off. The girl’s dreams always end with the vision of her mother’s face, watching the fires as she resigns herself to death.

The woman remains crouched in the dirt, praying. A hawk approaches and lands on a branch above her. The child sees it, but the woman does not.

There is no peace here. No medicine. My sons are lost to me, my husband dead at the hands of these white men.  For what?  For land. I am the prodigal one, lost and returned, but I yearn still for the one I was – Naduah, who carries herself with grace – the White Squaw.

The woman suddenly turns as if she expects that the hawk will be there. She reaches out, beseeching it. The hawk hops down a branch, closer, watching her. Then down another branch as the girl holds her breath, eyes widening with wonder.

“Cynthia Anne! Cynthia! Mrs. Parker!” The peace of the pines is shattered as the voices twist among the trees. A mix of men and women enter the clearing as the hawk drops nearly within reach. Cindy Anne reaches further, yearning, just as a man grabs her shoulder. The hawk dives and then retreats, unnoticed by anyone else but the blue-eyed woman and the girl.

The largest woman is panting. Her voice is strident, unpleasant to the little girl. She points at Cindy Anne and says, “I told you! She’s doing that Indian devilry again. Can’t keep her in the house, for the sake of her soul!”

The man shakes her arm. “Cindy, Cindy what are you doing? God save you, Cindy Anne, you can’t do that here. Get back to the house!”

Cindy Anne sags for a brief second, before collecting herself and lifting her chin. The joy on her face has now fallen into a sullen pout, and to the little girl she seems a completely new person, worn down, lost.

“And just look at her dress,” this largest woman squawks, “as dirty as any heathen savage. I’m not washing it for you, Cynthia Anne. You have to do it yourself, understand?”

They drag her back towards the cabin, fussing the whole way. The little girl steps out and kicks dirt over the fire. Then she looks up and sees the hawk, far above, watching her. The little girl smiles.

All I have left is my little Topsanna, my Prairie Flower. What will she have, a half-white, half-Indian girl growing up in Texas? What good man will have her, when good men are so few here on the frontier? I am forbidden from teaching her my medicine, of the spirits. What will she become, raised in the white way, the white religion, but not accepted as white?

Where will she go?

A gunshot rings out across the clearing, and the hawk falls dead at Prairie Flower’s feet. A new man steps into the clearing, sternly ignoring the little girl’s horror.

“Vermin, girl. That’s all they are. Vermin who swoop in silently and steal from us. Never miss a chance to destroy one. It’ll save you trouble later on.”  The man that Prairie Flower knows as the kindly uncle who shelters them doesn’t look at her as he nudges the dead hawk with his toe, nodding his satisfaction at the death.

The little girl glances back at the hawk as her uncle gently leads her away by the hand. In her mind she hears her mother’s chanting, fading away into the darkness of her memory.

The spirits are dead here. The white man’s – my family’s destiny is to destroy them, destroy everything that stands between them and the great sea. My spirit cries out for the plains, for the open, for the magic of life that has been trampled here. Here, I am dead. Yet my soul still rides on the endless plains.

In the barn beside the cabin, the little girl stares at her uncle’s mare. With hardly a thought, from an inner prompting she cannot sense nor deny, she leads the horse out of the barn and leaps onto her back. With only a mane for a handhold, Prairie Flower spurs the mare into a gallop across the field and into the tree line.

At the largest woman’s shout, Cindy Anne steps onto the porch and smiles the half-pained, half-serene smile that aggravates the largest woman so much. Beside the girl, on steeds of wind, Cindy Anne sees the ghosts of herself and her sons, hair whipping in freedom, laughing at the horizon.

* * * * *

Jenny Braswell is a grant writer and horseback riding instructor living in the south-eastern United States. She is constantly amazed at how life unfolds. This is her first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Guest-edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. III, Issue 1

Welcome to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure’s third glorious year, guest edited for this and next week by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke. Check out what he’s brought us below.


Monday – Fiction

Wednesday – Poetry

Friday – Poetry

Stay tuned for more from MFC next week!


Luke Bestfor Natalie

Over the ridge,
down through the ravine
where the sky cannot see

and the goat tracks
hide their serrations,
there is a great

yawn of pasture.
I went there today
far from this monument.

I peeled myself
from this stiff bed
threw off sheets

fed them to flame
felt the fizz of motion
and ran and ran and ran.

* * * * *

An emerging poet from Toowoomba, Luke Best has held numerous atypical jobs such as Pest Controller and Postie and aspires towards a career as a Fireman. His poetry stems from an upbringing in his beloved Darling Downs and is based on regional idiosyncrasies found therein. A child of the 80s, he shares his birth year with influences like Sarah Holland-Batt and LK Holt. He was highly commended in the 2010 Thomas Shapcott prize.

This is his first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure

Guest-edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

King Kong Goes to Cambridge

rob mclennanfor William Hawkins,


rob mclennan

Washed ashore in statehood, long escaped from Rotterdam,

what might he know of low-hung rooftops, turret-stone, a bridge
held down eight centuries

of charter. Neither New York, nor his Island hideaway,

beyond his reach, a bray of school-bells,
silent throng of students cross the football fields.

Castle Hill, no trace of Viking rule. Once more, into the breach.

King Kong, inclined to lechery, a lack of forethought,
keeps close to ground, displaying Newton’s accidents of gravity.

A million miles between: a sense of fair play, given
existential due. If he could, ignite the football fields. He chews

the stupid mint.

* * * * *

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com.

This is his first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Guest-edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Of Porn Stars and Pigs

Carole MehleMen can be pigs sometimes. I like to think my friends and family are not, but sometimes I worry about the company I keep.

I was at my cousin Hannah’s wedding reception, standing near the bar with my brother Scott and two male friends, Peter and Mark. The bright yellow walls that hurt my eyes in the daylight now shone golden at night. The prim and proper bridal guests had cut loose in the moonlight.

Between sips of beer, each of the males would wager a guess at something, but they wouldn’t tell me what.

When I finally asked what they were betting on, Peter smiled at me and said, “One of the female guests at the wedding is a porn star.”

Scott hushed him. “Don’t say it so loud. I just can’t believe Hannah knows a porn star.”

I took a sip of my vodka tonic and smiled. “Well, Hannah always has been good at making friends.”

“It’s her,” Peter pointed to a perky brunette in a teal dress.

“No,” Mark said. “It’s that cute little redhead over there.”

“You’re both wrong,” I told them, gulping down the last of vodka tonic.

I looked at a buxom girl in a jade green halter dress. She exuded confidence, even though she had a rather full figure and her blond hair was a little big. “It’s her,” I said, gesturing my head toward her.

“No way,” Peter said. “She’s not pretty enough.”

“Pete, I thought looks didn’t matter in the porn industry.”

“Well, Claire, what do you think matters to men who watch porn?”

I knew one thing for sure. “No male ever gives me a straight answer when I ask that. But I don’t think it’s a pretty face, now is it?”          “Okay, we’ve got to settle this,” Peter said. “I’ve got to know who the porn star is.”

“Better yet, let’s make a bet,” Mark said. “Losers buy the winner dinner. I’m in. Pete, Scott, Claire, you in?”

Each of us nodded and stuck with our original choices.

We played “Eeny meeny miney moe” to see who would ask the bride about her porn star friend. Scott and I smiled as it ended up being Peter.

When Peter returned from his chat with Hannah, he looked at me. “How did you know, Claire?”

I smiled. “Someone told me at the bar last night after the rehearsal dinner, so I watched the way she moves.”

“What do you mean?” Scott asks.

“Watch her and tell me she doesn’t move like a porn star. She walks like she knows she’s hot and she doesn’t care if you don’t think she is.”

For the rest of the night, they watched her every move.

When she walked by and didn’t even acknowledge them, I smiled.

Later, when I was in the ladies room, she was there, applying mascara.

“I like your dress,” she told me. “That mossy green is good on you.”

“Thanks,” I answered. “I didn’t think anybody cared what I had on. I like your dress too.”

“It’s not too tight?” She shimmied her hips and her blond curls bounced.

“No,” Claire told her.“I wish I could get my dresses to fit like that. You’ve got great curves.”

“You do too. I wish I had perky little boobs like yours instead of these big melons.” She looked down at her breasts and continued applying mascara. “Those guys you’re with haven’t noticed your dress?”

I just shook my head.

“Men can be such pigs sometimes,” she said, powdering her nose.

“Indeed they can,” I answered.

“So, why are you here with three guys who aren’t paying any attention to you?”

“Well, one of them is my brother. Peter and Mark like flashier women.”

“Is that why they’ve been staring at me? They think I’m flashy? Tell them to come over and talk to me. It’s weird. They’re all cute, but one of them likes you.”

“Which one?” Claire asked.

“The mid-height guy, short hair. Gorgeous eyes. That Burberry tie has a stripe the color of his eyes. Tell the other two to come talk to me.”

“I don’t think they know what to say to you.”

The porn star applied her lipstick and said, blotting her lips, “Most guys start off with either ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ or ‘Did you really make porn?’”

“That sounds like something Peter would say to you! Peter has on a blue tie. I think my brother, the one fiddling with the camera, would probably ask you how you know our cousin.”

“Bride or groom?”


“That’s why her dad gave you that big bear hug. Wait. I’ve seen your picture. She told me you two were like sibs to her. Claire, right? I’m Jade.”

With one last look in the mirror, Jade said, “Listen to me. You just prance yourself out of here and remember this: It’s in the way you carry yourself. Even porn stars have bad hair days.”

When I left the bathroom, I tried to work what I had the whole way back to Peter, Mark, and Scott.

And the porn star was right. It worked.

I saw Mark watching me cross the room while Scott was messing with his digital camera.

“Hey, Claire. That dress is nice on you.”

“Thanks, Mark,” I answered, looking for my vodka tonic glass.

He leaned in and told me, “Peter went to defend your honor on the way to get refills – at least he thinks it was yours. Some guy was talking about the hot girl in the green dress. Sissy ass wouldn’t go until he was sure you were wearing a green dress.”

Scott barely looked up from the camera and said, “She is wearing a green dress.”

“If you’d look up, you’d see for yourself.”

“I’m the younger sister. I’ve been invisible since he was thirteen.”

“If you only knew, little sis,” Scott says, gazing up from the camera. “Why do you think there are three of us standing with you?”

“The porn star look-out, the beer go-fer, and the third so the other two don’t look like a couple. Guys have to stand in threes.”

“Nope,” Mark said. “I’m trying to convince your brother and Pete to go talk to the porn star so I can talk you into dinner.”

I smiled to him.

“Jade’s out on the patio. Scott, she said you were hot. Mark’s buying me dinner.”

“Hey! We came together. You’ve got the hotel room key, sis!”

I reached into my cleavage, retrieved the key, and placed it in Scott’s hand.

“That’s one lucky room key,” Mark said.

“Maybe the room key won’t be the only lucky one tonight.”

I quit worrying about Scott and Peter. I let them take care of themselves with Jade. Mark was the only company I wanted to keep.

* * * * *

Carole Mehle is a writer based in North Carolina. To support her writing habit, she teaches English and humanities at a local community college. The teaching habit though, tends to suck the life from her writing habit, leaving little time for actually writing, much less getting published. Her debut novel, Blinded by the Crowd, has been stuck in revision far too long (with all the other novels she writes) and will be released this summer.

This is her first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Guest edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. II, Issue 52

The first of three guest-edited weeks gave us some great fiction and poetry, courtesy of guest editor Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke. Check out what you missed below.


Monday – Introduction

Wednesday – Fiction

Friday – Poetry

More from MFC this week and next, plus, today marks the beginning of Dr. H’s third year! Huzzah!

A Bird Calls

Graham NunnSomewhere, a bird, head thrown
back in the pink flush of
dawn, releases its careful
notes into the world.

And though I lay drowsing
unable to tell which species it is
it arrives at the window
like a gift of spring.

Once, I would have rushed
outside to name it —
insisted on knowing
the purpose of its call.

Now, with you curled
at my side, I thank
the bird and lie still
listening, not for answers —

there is something
sweeter than knowing —
a fullness, unimagined
in the morning sky.

* * * * *

Graham Nunn is a founding member of Brisbane’s longest running poetry event, SpeedPoets. He blogs fiercely at Another Lost Shark: http://www.anotherlostshark.com and has published six collections of poetry, his most recent, The First 30 and other poems (Another Lost Shark Publications, 2012). In 2010, his debut CD, recorded in collaboration with Sheish Money, The Stillest Hour, was shortlisted for the Overload Poetry Festival’s Aural Text Award. In 2011, Nunn was the recipient of The Johnno Award for outstanding contribution to QLD Writers and Writing. In 2013 Nunn has work forthcoming in the major anthology Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years and will release a new chapbook, I, land.

This is his first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Guest edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke